Walking on Sunshine (2014)
Starring: Hannah Arterton, Annabel Scholey, Guilio Berruti
Walking on Sunshine is the movie equivalent to Popsi. You know what it’s trying to be. You know it’s a poor attempt to trick you in to thinking it’s something else. But still, you buy it because you want the thing you love, but you want it to be different and new. Instead, it’s a disappointment with very few good points to make up for the taste of regret it leaves.
As Popsi is to Pepsi, Walking on Sunshine is to Mama Mia.
Walking on Sunshine was released in UK cinemas on 27th June 2014. It stars Hannah Arterton (Atlantis, Hide and Seek) as Taylor, a serious and reserved university graduate who is summoned to Italy by her sister Maddie (Annabel Scholey) to celebrate her engagement. But the gorgeous Italian fiancé is none other than Raphael, the man who Taylor left three years ago to return to England to her studies.
The movie follows Taylor as she tries to fight her attraction to the gorgeous Raphael (Guilio Berruti), all the while hiding her history with him from her sister. She convinces Raph and his friends to join in on her lies, and hijinks ensue. Meanwhile, Maddie deals with the dreadful Doug, an ex-boyfriend her friends are convinced is no good. Doug won’t take no for an answer, and is determined to win Maddie back.
The movie boasts that it is Pitch Perfect meets Mama Mia. So it is to be expected that the movie share elements with its predecessors. Unfortunately, it lacks the charm and borders or plagiarism in parts.
Example: Mama Mia follows Donna—the serious one who doesn’t need love but concedes that her true love is the exception to this rule; Tanya—the overly amorous one who has an unrelenting lover; Rosie—the writer who begins the movie uninterested in settling down but ultimately ends up together with a similar counterpart. Walking on Sunshine follows Taylor, the serious one who doesn’t need love but who concedes that her true love is the exception to this rule; Maddie, the overly amorous one who has an unrelenting lover; Lil (Katy Brand)—the writer who begins the movie uninterested in settling down but ultimately ends up together with a similar counterpart. Even the location is similar; a quiet beach in a Mediterranean country that’s beautiful but seemingly unmarred by the tourist trade.
These are the two plots that run alongside each. Both sisters and their problems with their exes. What really annoyed me about this movie is that both women are punished for contradicting reasons. Taylor is punished for putting her career and education first, and striking out on her own. Her only reason for leaving Raphael three years ago was that she was starting university. She is punished for not thinking about romance and love. There’s even a scene where she tries to discuss the exams she’s worked three years to complete, but all anyone is interested in is her love life. Conversely, you have Maddie. Maddie does care about love and sex. It’s that life and passion that attracts both Raphael and Doug. And naturally she is belittled by her friends and family for it, and ultimately she ends up lied to and betrayed by the two people who supposedly love her most. You can dress it up with whatever peppy musical number you want, but Maddie is betrayed in the end. Taylor berates Maddie for agreeing to marry Raphael after only five weeks, never realising the irony that she is willing to destroy her relationship with her sister by lying and fleeing the country on Maddie’s wedding day over a summer romance from three years ago.
On a related note, Doug’s behaviour is simply stalking. He follows Maddie to Italy, to her room, all across the town and never takes no for an answer. He even goes as far as to wait until he knows she’ll be alone and drunk (i.e her hen night) and he breaks in to her bedroom. It’s played off as a flirty and clever sing-along, but the behaviour is inappropriate and creepy. Their history doesn’t matter, and it shouldn’t be a joke. No means no.
Of course, the biggest selling point of the movie was not the plot or casting, but the music. Walking on Sunshine has the discography of an 80’s greatest hits album. The eponymous song, Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves, sets the aesthetic for the movie’s soundtrack; a feel-good experience that you have to sing along to. There’s even a scene in one of the trailers of the characters donned in the iconic outfits of 80’s figures. The characters sing songs by Madonna, Duran Duran, Wham! and a plethora of other classic songs.
The best song by far is Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, made famous by Cindi Lauper. It’s sang by Katy Brand and Leona Lewis (starring in her acting debut as one of Raphael’s best friends) during Maddie’s hen night party. Here’s a little preview of it.
Though as a cheating honourable mention, I would recommend any song that Annabel Scholey sings. Not only does she get the best and most upbeat songs to sing, but her voice is genuinely a delight to listen to. Maddie was my highlight of the movie, and I lament the fact that she wasn’t the primary focus throughout. The movie would have been infinitely better that way.
So as a summary, the movie is okay at best. I was drawn in by the fun and upbeat trailer, but in the end it couldn’t deliver. The main character is dull, uninteresting and unable to capture the audience’s interest despite Arterton’s best attempts. Meanwhile the background characters like Maddie and Lil are fun, entertaining and in Maddie’s case complex. Were the movie hers, I think it would be phenomenal.
Likewise, I’d have liked to see more of Guilio Berruti. Perhaps it’s childhood nostalgia that makes me like him (he was in The Lizzie McGuire Movie) or just plan vanity, but I liked him. He was passionate, he was thoughtful, and his story was sadly underdeveloped in favour of Taylor’s side of the story. I’d have liked to see more of him
The songs are good though and that’s important for a movie musical. For the most part, they’re good song choices with good singing. Holiday is a weak introduction, but don’t let it deter you from the rest of the songs. Even if you just skip to Scholey’s songs, it’s worth the listen. I’d especially recommend Don’t You Want Me and Faith. Without the creepy visual subtext, they’re enjoyable and fun numbers.
I’d give it 2.5 stars out of 5. It has a lot of wasted potential. It’s worth the watch once if the tickets are cheap or there’s nothing else on, but if you’re looking for summer musical fun in gorgeous locations that focuses on love and friendship, stick to Mama Mia. It’s just a better movie.